Better Than a Basket of Kittens - Tips for Managing Stress (and your waistline) Through the Holidays

It's finally Halloween! I am SO excited for Halloween (to be over)! My kids have been dressing in costumes and changing their minds about what they'll be for the past 3 weeks - pieces of costumes are everywhere and there are stains on everything so as I write this I am not eager for tomorrow morning's rush to pick a costume for school. I've been stepping on wands and slipping on pirate eye patches on the reg and the whining for candy from my two boys (and the voice inside my head, if I'm going to be real honest) might actually be driving me insane.

*breathe*

I guess that means we've officially kicked off "The Holidays" now! Given my current blood pressure of 1800/800, I thought this would be a great time to discuss some stress management tools and mindfulness tips with you (and how that can help with your waistline)!

In all seriousness, this is not the easiest time of year for many. So, most importantly, be KIND to yourself. Make time for you, check in with yourself, and make sure your happiness is a priority! Stress and anxiety are no joke and, like I talk about all the healthy choices you make every day, the bad stuff can add up, too, and have a big impact on your health.

Here are five tested and proven ways to help reduce stress (and bloating!) through the holidays so you can focus on FUN.

1. Get outside and get active

First, there's that whole vitamin D thing that I won't get in to here (but respond if you'd like more info!) so get out and soak up as much sun as you can! A lot of us are in California, so it's not that hard to catch some rays, but we still often hunker down inside in the winter. Go for a walk, even if it's just a few minutes. The blood flow and daylight does wonders to reduce your stress, fire some endorphins and keep you in the present.

If you can't get outside, or just want to get in SOME activity for the day, set a timer and start moving! You can throw yourself a dance party (awesome for turning your mood and any others near you right around!), you can do sets of push ups, squats, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, lunges, burpees - or whatever comes to mind! Set up an obstacle course with your kids, jog around the block - anything!

Try to take 5 min every day -and often you'll feel inspired to add on more! Blood flowing, changing planes of motion, getting the joints moving, challenging your spacial awareness - those are all ways we can boost our mood and lower our cortisol levels (the stress hormone that is often coupled with bloating and midsection weight gain).

I'm also going to throw in essential oils here: stuck inside? Infuse your room with amazing calming smells to help bliss you out! It's not Vitamin D, but it will help!

2. Meditate

Meditation is really gaining a strong reputation not just as a great tool for stress management and mindfulness, but, in many cases, as a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.

In times when you're feeling overwhelmed, or can't let go of an unwanted feeling, meditation can really help you connect with yourself - not just emotionally, but on a physiological level. Your brain as well as your hormonal and nervous system can all respond to help you calm down and ground yourself.

I was a big skeptic before I started and I still forget how much it helps me until I miss a few days and realize I'm struggling through something in a way I don't have to. If you're new to it, try short guided meditations at first to help you focus. Apps like Headspace and Calm have a great variety and this 30 day meditation challenge is a great free intro to learning to meditate!

3. Strength train

Again, the blood flow, the endorphins, the serotonin boost - all great side effects of a strength workout. Building muscle, developing healthy movement patterns, reducing chronic pain, challenging your body, being proud of yourself - those are all even MORE side effects of strength training that will keep you feeling AWESOME. So this one's an easy one to prioritize. You will feel better. It's just about how to make it work. If you missed it, here's a blog post I wrote about how to make time for workouts in an already insanely busy lifestyle.

4. Journal

Take time to celebrate you! Write down one thing you love about yourself every day. Or one thing you're thankful for. Or both! Many of us spend a lot of time and energy speaking negatively to ourselves without even realizing it. Being kind to yourself and celebrating you may be hard at first but you will gain a whole new relationship with yourself. You are often your worst critic and put the most pressure on yourself. It's time you learned to be your cheerleader!

Try also writing down what's bothering you. Sorting through negative feelings on paper is an amazing way to move past them. Pushing negative thoughts away, trying not to acknowledge them or even feel them is the best way to keep that negativity in your life. It will stay there and you will spend energy (stress) keeping it at bay and worrying when it might pop up again. What scares you? What stresses you out? Exploring it may help you realize ways around it!

5. Reduce daily stressors

This one is key! There are so many small things we do every day that add stress to our lives. Aside from just not being a fun way to live life, stress is also really the numero uno culprit for not making healthy choices or not reaching your goals so focus on this one!

Simple things you can do (and you're probably not!) to reduce your daily stress are: Eat consistently, stay hydrated, get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and ask for help.

When our bodies are physically stressed (ie. hungry, tired, overworked), hormones start going berserk and stress signals sound left and right. And, as our stress hormones increase, we retain water and hold on to visceral fats (in our mid section) where the cortisol hormone likes to camp out.

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And before you ask, making sure to eat consistently is different from intermittent fasting when you are choosing to give your digestive system a break. The skipped snacks and meals because you ate too much the night before, or because you want to save up your calories or because you can't find time to eat, those are the times you're increasing your stress. So stop it! Don't stress out your body! It will not react well.

Hydrate and your body will love you. Get your rest - figure it out (have trouble with this one? Here are some ideas to help get you some zzzzs)! And ASK. FOR. HELP. (this is a tough one for people like me - here's a post with some thoughts!). Need some snack ideas? Try this post.

There you have it! Now go take care of yourself!

If you want some accountability and healthy competition around these things, join my Holiday Wellness Challenge that benefits Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (and YOU!) - we start Nov. 12! It was a blast last year and this year it's even better. Give yourself the gift of health and presence through the holidays!

Ok, now pick 5 delicious pieces of candy today and EAT them guilt free.